“I am his eyes. He is my wings. I am his voice. He is my spirit. I am his human. He is my Horse.”
There once was a sad little pony who lived on a desolate and lonely hill. He was cold, always hungry and often tired,
He was with lots of other poorly horses who were in the same situation as him. They stayed together to keep each other warm and for protection.
One day, big groups of people came and one by one the horses were selected for new homes and taken away. The sad little pony and his brother, went in a stable that was safe and comforting.
For the next few years the sad little pony became less and less sad. He grew lots and noticed his tummy had become covered in toasty warm muscle, which kept him comfortable in the winter. He was fed twice a day, treated so kindly and given much love.
The little pony learnt how to ride properly, how to stand still, how to trot and canter and listen to the people who lavished him with such love and care.
One day the little pony met a young girl. She was very gentle and loved the little pony instantly, giving him hugs, kisses and lots of love. The young girl loved to whisper words of encouragement into the little pony’s small ears.
The young girl spent many, many weeks coming by the little pony’s stable, feeding him, taking him out for walks and riding him in the fields.
And the little pony began to be sad no more.
A few months after the little pony and the young girl had been spending more and more time together, they were told that the little pony come and live with the young girl. “Do you want to come home with me?”, whispered the young girl excitedly. “You can come and live with me forever and we will go on so many adventures together.’
So the little pony who was no longer sad and the young girl, who had also been sad for a very, very long time, found her happiness in a sweet but very lost pony.
The young girl knew that she wouldn’t just be working on the horse, she would also be working on herself, learning more and more about the inner whispers of her heart, through the beautiful creature that she was so fortunate to call hers.
And she realised that whilst only two feet moved her body, her little pony’s four feet were responsible for moving her soul and finding her brave once again.
If you are unaware of the benefits of Equine Therapy for those who struggle with mental illness, anxiety and depression, here is a brief explanation of how these beautiful creatures can make such an impact on the human heart and mind.
Whilst, the obvious benefit is working outdoors, exercising and taking responsibility for something besides oneself, Equine Therapy allows people struggling with mental illness, to identify or process their feelings, something many with this type of disorder find very difficult.
Equine Therapy is a way to get in touch with emotions in a non-verbal way. It encourages the person to look for the clues as to how their horse is feeling. Horses are very sensitive animals and will react to emotions even when you don’t realise you are exhibiting them. In a way they mirror what is going on inside your head. If you are anxious, so will your horse be. If you are calm, your horse will take their cue from you in a measured manner.
Equine Therapy is a brilliant way for individuals to create safe spaces for those who suffer from anxiety. It helps them to feel they are able to exhibit positive emotions around their horse because their horse is so in-tune with their actions and non-verbal communication.
Plus, the daily routine of caring for another living creature is a huge positive. Especially for those who struggle to maintain positive habits and routines.
We have found the arrival of Sock’s in our family to be a life-changing experience and I would encourage anyone who is thinking of using Equine Therapy as a tool for anxiety or mental health issues to look into it more – for yourself or your loved one.
There is something quite beautiful about the gentle wisdom in a horse’s eye that can put even the most troubled of souls at peace. Which is exactly what our lovely boy Socks, has done for our daughter.
We will be forever grateful for his life and their connection of two hearts, one soul.
I haven’t always been a stay at home mama. In fact, I worked when my firstborn was just 8 months old. Full-time. I hated it and after a few months and lots of tears, mainly mine, I took on a part-time position at Singapore Airlines (same company, different position) in the Sales Department, for three days a week.
Still, I found it difficult being apart from her. I would leave home at 8 am and not see her sweet little baby face until 6 pm that evening, my mum and dad selflessly stepping in to take over the child-care for those three days a week.
And I felt guilty. So very guilty about everything.
It was hard to balance the quality over quantity line that everyone speaks of. I didn’t relish the idea of missing out on many of her firsts. I just felt sad that I wasn’t there all the time, guilt eating away at me. But we had a mortgage over our very first home and lots of debt so I didn’t have a lot of choice about our situation.
After my first, I went on to have five other children and work was weaved in and out of those new arrivals. Some seasons I was able to stay home full-time and others, I actually chose to work because I needed that time away from home to build back into myself.
The difference in my mental state from working when I had one child to working when I had six, was worlds apart.
Not that it was necessarily easier to leave the children, but my mindset was different, a lot calmer and realistic about what I could and couldn’t do and I stepped off the guilt train and never got back on it. That was just a one-way destination to messing with my mind.
This Is What I Learnt Working As A Mama:
I Was Still Their Mother.
Even though I wasn’t at home 24/7 that didn’t mean I wasn’t, along with my husband, their main caregiver, the one whom they ran to when hurt or upset. Just because I worked didn’t mean I was any less of a mother than one who stayed at home with them. And I realised that whatever choices we made as a family, they were the norm for our children. Because each family is unique, with their own set pace of rhythms and choices.
No Mother Is Perfect.
There isn’t a mother under the sun who gets everything right all of the time. Sure, you have those mama’s who appear to have to it altogether, but pause long enough to really look into their lives. You will see frantic paddling feet and cracks appearing – just the same as you and I. Because motherhood is a really difficult and demanding job. Honestly if we didn’t find it hard, then we wouldn’t be half the mothers we are.We worry because we care and love so very much.
Don’t Compare Yourself.
I say this all the time about comparisons in parenting. If you were to line up ten different mothers, you would find at least half of those mothers had their own beliefs as to how they want to raise their children. And just because each one is different, doesn’t make it wrong. We all have different children who respond to parenting styles very uniquely. So don’t compare what you do with your children, to what the lady next door does with hers.
Trade-Offs Are Inevitable.
At some point, you will find that you can’t stay for that extra 10 minutes to settle your child or attend their assembly or award’s celebrations because you have to work. It’s not always easy or practical to take time off for these events and be assured your child will not be damaged for life because you miss a few. Sure, they will be disappointed for a little bit but they will only remember the times that you were present and these times will be sealed in their memories rather than the odd occasions you couldn’t. And grand-parents or close friends are always fabulous stand-ins!
Give Yourself A Pat On The Back.
It’s ok if some nights you can’t face to cook a hot meal and the kids have cereal instead. It’s perfectly acceptable to declare you want a night off and get MacDonald’s for a treat or rustle together some leftovers and make that dinner. Nobody has a pristinely perfect life like we are led to believe. The most important thing is being with your children and showing them the very best version of yourself, and if that means having a night off now and then, do it, and do it regularly for your mental wellbeing.
You Have Made The Right Choice For Your Family.
Don’t doubt yourself and the decisions you have made which are the best for you and your family. Every family situation is vastly different and nobody has the right to tell you otherwise. If you do find a few snippy comments about being a working mama, coming your way, dust them off your shoes and don’t allow them to reside in your mind. After all, it’s your life – not anyone else’s. You are the mother to your children so don’t let anyone tell you that your journey is not right. Nobody should be given that sort of power over you.
Lastly, It’s Ok To Work And Enjoy It.
Don’t feel guilty about enjoying having a break from your family and home. Working brings enormous benefits, not only financially but emotionally as well. I wish I had known way back when I first started to work, what I know now. That I would soon thrive in having the distinction between parent and employee.
I would love the fact that I could dress nicely, do my hair and makeup and use my brain towards something entirely different other than looking after lots of small humans. Working made me focus on looking after myself and it was a precious gift I gave to myself. I stopped for lunch, I sat and drank my coffee in peace, I made work friends and enjoyed a full social life. All separate from my family.
I found working to be a hugely positive decision towards finding myself again, after having been surrounded by children day in day out. And enjoying that experience didn’t make me a bad mother.
It made me a profoundly better and happier mother.
“Your children learn from you all the time. Just because you spend time at work doesn’t mean they’l miss out on your deep and abiding love for them”.
Life is so much simpler when you stop explaining yourself to other people. When you just focus on what works best for you and your family. Celebrate this working season of your life and don’t let yourself be hindered by those who don’t agree with your choices, for they quite simply, aren’t your people.
Your children learn from you all the time and just because you spend time at work does not mean they will miss out on your deep and abiding love for them. In fact, they will benefit even more from having a happy and fulfilled mother who has other interests and tasks to complete, besides her family unit.
Presently, we home-school four of our six children, ranging in ages from 9-14. My husband and I both manage Holding Arrows and just this year, we are also setting up an online business.
Working from home has its own unique challenges but it is no less work than if we were to be in a city office.
I write for US-based parenting magazines and online family forums. This takes up two full days a week of me sitting in my office.
But we make it work, this balance between home and financing, bringing up children and educating them. For we are as different as your family and what works for us, surely won’t work for you. This is why you should work with pride (or not!). What you do and what we do is exclusively right for our respective families at this time.
Your family, too, will slot right into your working life much more effortlessly than you may think. So, mama, work with pride in your heart and conviction in your steps and be proud of your achievements.
In your children’s eyes, you are quite simply their entire world, regardless of whether you work or not.
It has been said that 99% of parenting is trying unsuccessfully to sit down. My mum always used to say to me when I was little that she hadn’t sat down all day and I remember thinking, “How is that possible? To not place your bottom onto a soft seat ALL day?” “Who does that?”
Well now I am a mother myself, I know of course, that my mum was absolutely right! She was trying to sit down all day but life gets in the way and prevents you from resting.
We are currently reading a book called “Sitting Still Like a Frog”, by Eline Snel. It is primarily a book on mindfulness exercises and practices to help your children deal with anxiety, improve concentration and handle difficult emotions.
One of the examples was of a six-year-old girl who was given a bike for her birthday, having no previous experience of cycling. She immediately hopped on and began to effortlessly ride her new bike. When her parents enquired as to how she knew what to do she said, “I pictured riding in my mind”
This example begs me to question how powerful our mind is and the need for us to not only want to rest but visualise the benefits of such a practice.
We should equally know that in order for a plant to not just live but flourish, we need to give it love, water, sun and attention. Sadly, mother’s attentions are most always on everyone else and their own needs are at the bottom of the pile, most probably the large and ever-growing washing pile!!
“If the mountain seems too big today then climb a hill instead. If the morning brings you sadness it’s ok to stay in bed. If the day ahead weighs heavy and your plans feel like a curse, there’s no shame in rearranging, don’t make yourself feel worse. If a shower stings like needles and a bath feels like you’ll drown. If you haven’t washed your hair for days, don’t throw away your crown. A day is not a lifetime, a rest is not defeat. Don’t think of it as failure, just a quiet, kind retreat. It’s ok to take a moment from an anxious, fractured mind. The world will not stop turning while you get realigned. The mountain will still be there when you want to try again. You can climb it in your own time, just love yourself till then”.
It has encouraged me to stop pushing myself to exercise so much when every muscle is screaming for a break and my heart sighs at the thought of putting my trainers on for another day. Yes, exercise is so beneficial but not if it depletes me more than build me up.
Maybe you too can take the same advice and remember that some days beg for rest and recuperation. It’s totally ok to gift ourselves that important downtime.
And whilst all the pretty pictures (like above!) promote lovely, soft images of milk baths and sweet smelling roses, quite often simple is key. A nap in the afternoon, a stroll outside, buying your favourite magazine and curling up in a corner with a warming brew, makes an enormous difference to our bodies and minds.
Just ten minutes sitting quietly and letting your mind drift away can be the difference between feeling anxiety rise like bile in your throat and a complete change of attitude towards your situation.
All because of self-care. And remember self-care isn’t selfish, it’s as important as breath in your lung. So go and water your own garden before you tend to someone else’s.
“Spend more time with people who pull the magic out of you and not the madness”. ~Unknown~
I’m not talking magic of the spell type here but rather that warm feeling that you experience after being in someone’s presence who fills your friendship tank up to full.
I have a handful of these types of friends and I feel so very fortunate to hold them within my inner circle.
They are the the ones who deposit rather than withdraw. They stop to listen, pause to consider a response – not just a quick answer that they think I want to hear and love always. And when I say always I mean they love me through the good and the not so good. When I am unwell, emotional and just plain unlovable. They have stickability which is something of a rarity these days. So my friends, my sticking friends, are very, very precious. And if you can name these sorts of friends on the one hand you are deeply blessed indeed.
We all want our children to spend time in the right company. Have you stopped to consider the company you keep has a knock on effect to your family?
Making the Wrong Decisions for Wholly Right Feelings of Compassion……
A few years ago I made friends with a young mum who was clearly struggling with her small children. She was pregnant with her fourth child and I became quite involved in helping her with family life. I allowed my naturally compassionate heart become too involved and soon found myself babysitting, looking after her children and daily supporting her. It was an unwise interaction and not a true friendship and I became exhausted and overwhelmed with the connection.
I learnt a valuable lesson and one which I haven’t repeated since. Just because somebody wants to be your friend does not mean they should be your friend. I know it sounds harsh, but when I took an honest look at our friendship, I realised it had nothing to do with friendship at all and all about what I was doing for her. And when it started to have an impact on my own children in that they saw me stressed and anxious – it hit home. My poor decisions, although admirable, were affecting the children in their own home.
“Sometimes you need to be brave enough to say goodbye,
so life can reward you with hello”.
So I made the difficult decision to withdraw my help and daily assistance and it didn’t end well. At all. I felt relieved that the burden was gone and my ex-friend felt very wounded and angry at my withdrawal of help.
I’ve talked a lot about friendship here on this blog. If there is one thing I can’t stress enough it’s this – choose your friends wisely. Just because someone extends the hand of friendship does not mean you need to grasp it. In other words – don’t become friends with everyone. It’s not only impossible but highly unachievable.
Sometimes you need to be brave enough to say goodbye, so life can reward you with hello. And those hello’s are the ones you truly do want to be free to hear and have the energy to reciprocate. Because those friendships are the ones that hold the true threads of gold and silver in your clasp. These are your keepers. Forever and always. Don’t be blinded by the takers and the withdrawers. Make room for the lifelong keepers. These are your people.
I wish someone had told me that just because something is hard, doesn’t make it wrong.
I wish someone had whispered, “this too shall pass”.
I wish I had been aware that the small, seemingly insignificant days, are the big days. The ones that burrow a sweet place in your heart and stay there forever.
As we begin a brand new year, I’m not making any big plans or out of reach goals. I’m not declaring that I will run a marathon or hike up a mountain or write a book (although, actually, I would love to do that!).
I’m not going to make a fortune or start a charity. I won’t rescue an animal or bring new life into the world.
My declarations are simple.
I’m not going to do great things.
I’m going to do small things. With great love.
Because the small things are really the big things.
They always were and they always will be.
Go shake the world gently this year, with every single step of normalcy.
Motherhood Unplugged –
Don’t Be Cruel to Yourself.
Be whoever you want to be!
Mama of one, mama of ten, working mama, stay at home, stay at work, stay single, live inner city, live on an island, eat tacos for dinner, be vegan, run, pole dance, have coffee on an IV in the mornings, slurp green kale and matcha tea smoothies before 5am………
Whatever you do, do what works for you and your loves without the pressure of explaining your journey to others.
Because, as my gorgeous hubby says, “Honey, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters are the people who have a piece of your heart and The One whose eye’s see it all”.
I read a quote the other day that said, ‘Eve was not an afterthought, but God’s grand-finale’
I love the fact that women are God’s grand-finale! Not forgotten, or tacked onto the end, but saved until last. The perfect moment of the ‘best is yet to come’.
I was a teenager when I began modelling. Every young girl’s dream right? The glitz and glamour of looking pretty.
But the real reason I began modelling was because prior to this stage, I wasn’t a very confident person, particularly as I towered above all of my peers and stood out like a sore thumb.
My mum thought if I learnt the art of modelling, it would teach me how to walk with poise and grace and be proud of my height, whilst also instil a sense of worth and pride in my body.
This did happen, in a fashion, as I became comfortable with my height, and the modelling agency took me on for work. I was only 15 and the world of modelling was both daunting and exciting.
The agency built up my portfolio of professional photos and these pictures were then distributed to their clients. Castings and photo-shoots followed and I soon became busy within my fascinating new world.
“Go with the strength you have”
However, I barely recognised myself in some of the shots, after the makeup artist painted and sculpted me and clothes were placed, perfectly on my bird-like body.
The best angles were found of my face and also the worst were discovered and highlighted.
Was I aware that my smile wasn’t exactly aligned? Basically, I have a slightly droopy mouth on the right side of my face.
I also have a lump on my neck which I have had since birth, owing to a lifelong thyroid condition. This, my agent, informed me, should be covered up. Always.
I should never show my neck whilst I was working.
Each photo that was taken of me was scrutinised by a magnifying glass. Like an insect under a microscope. Every single picture would be examined and flaws highlighed.
To be discarded immediately.
Always seeking perfection. This period in my life deposited great chunks into my heart (I grew to love my height and I learnt how to walk gracefully, with excellent posture)- but the withdrawals were heavier.
It created in me a lifelong habit of not much liking having my picture taken, certainly not without putting a mask on first.
I struggled to show my face void of makeup and particularly, now I am in my 40’s, lines and wrinkles have appeared which bear stories of growing children, lack of sleep and just plain ageing. All a perfectly normal part of life and living.
“But why oh why should we fit in when we were born
to stand out?”
And yet I still remain critical of my features.
As though my mind, which was moulded in front of the flash of a camera, has been set on this default pattern of scrutiny and harsh judgement. The likes of which I wouldn’t ever pass on to the worst of my enemies.
The thing is though, I do want to see ‘real’ in other people. I very much respect and admire women who are brave and post pictures of themselves with their flaws.
Except, when they talk about their flaws, I don’t see them at all.
I just see beautiful women, created by God, being real and rocking their awesomeness. It is beyond refreshing.
We are so cruel to ourselves. We nit-pick every single flaw, duck, dive and hide from the camera. Instantly delete those photos our husbands took of us because we believe it’s not our best angle.
There are some days for me still, that I would honestly show more kindness to anybody else on this earth than I would myself. Women lie to themselves and believe those lies every single day.
With such scathing criticism of our bodies, our worth, our very existence.
But why oh why should we fit in when we were born to stand out?
Whilst being in my 40’s has revealed more than wrinkles and sags, it has made me become a realist.
My dear old Nanna used to say to me when she saw me prim and preen myself before going out, “Who the heck do you think you are gonna meet girl? – the Queen!” Basically, what image did I have in my mind that I was trying to attain? Her comment always brought me down-to-earth and I am so grateful for her honesty and candour in my formative years. I clung to those words when I was being picked apart on a catwalk or in a photographic studio.
Be whoever you want to be mama’s but wear that badge of ownership with tenacious pride!
Our lives of six children, home-schooling, church ministry, business owning, slow-living, country off-the-beaten-track, with a shake of hippie living are not ‘the norm’.
Nope, not at all. But you know what? I just don’t care because there is such freedom in radically pursuing the path untrod. Your unique story unfolding.
The one that is a shade of messy aubergine, quirky mustard and delightfully free sage.
This is my life and it looks entirely different than yours but that’s the whole point. We are created to make a mark on the world and my mark looks wildly different to yours.
Just as it was meant to be.
So the three things that I use as a reality check in order to be more confident are these:
1- Who am I trying to impress?
If it is my husband, he has seen the very worst of me and loves me still.
If it is other people – I want to be liked and loved for me, not what I look like or what I do or how I live my life.
Different isn’t bad, it’s just not the same.
2- The ideal/perfect image I may have in my mind – doesn’t exist.
The ideal family, the ideal mother, the ideal face…..
Listen – it doesn’t exist. Ever. Full stop.
Blame photoshop, or the media or the skinny models portrayed (sorry cos that was me many years ago – totally blame me).
So, because perfect doesn’t exist, Let…… It……. Go.
3- I will be happier when – I fit into my skinny jeans, grow my hair long, get married, have a baby……….
Well, I do fit into my skinny jeans and my hair is crazy long now. I have been married for 25 years and birthed six babies. But I am no more happy having done those things (as much as I am grateful!) because happiness isn’t an elusive feeling, it’s a choice to be content in the present, no matter the circumstances.
I saw a brilliant poster the other day that said this:
A real woman Has curves Is skinny Has muscles Is whatever the hell she wants to be!
Here’s to being whatever the heck we want to be!
God’s grand finale, in every splendid, perfectly, imperfect way.
And by the way, in case you were wondering, I never did meet the Queen, despite my efforts in front of the mirror.
Nanna was right. She was always right.
With age comes great wisdom.
If you were asked how to describe yourself in a few sentences, what would you say? Would you speak in kindness and affirmation? Would you say you’re beautiful?
To be honest, when I was recently asked this question, my first words weren’t particularly nourishing and that bothered me. A lot.
So, here is my answer after a couple of thinking days: I am a child of the King and beautiful and precious in His eyes. I am a wife and a mother but also a daughter, sister and friend. I am sometimes anxious and often feel the weight of other people’s emotions. I am sensitive and quirky and very spontaneous.
I am calm, love the quiet and altogether very sensitive. I am nowhere near perfect but am learning that perfection is a slippery slope towards failure. I am a runner, a lover of cake and a creative soul. I am a bearer of scars and the recipient of healing through kindness. I have the heart of a gypsy, the soul of a wanderer and the spirit of a lion. I am exactly who I was always meant to be.
A few days ago, Princess Eugenie married her long-term partner, Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. And in a show of courage and inspiration, the Princess made a point of wearing a dress that exposed – rather than hid – a scar left over from a childhood operation.
The Queen’s granddaughter had major surgery on her back to treat a curvature of the spine at the age of 12 and in revealing her scar, she hoped it would honour those who had helped her on her journey with the condition of scoliosis. The Princess also wanted to make a point, being that “you can change the way beauty is” and following the wedding, her bravery has indeed influenced many others to also reveal their hidden scars and embrace beautiful.
“True beauty isn’t about having a pretty face.
It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart
and a pretty soul.”
In a stereotypical sense, most little girls long to be a princess right? But a princess with a curved spine? That’s not part of the fairytale story.
The princesses we see in the storybooks have clear, porcelain smooth skin, big shining blue eyes and long wavy hair. She is sweet and kind and often unaware of her stunning beauty, whilst she patiently waits for her handsome prince to complete her life. But she definitely does not bear scars. Or a crooked spine.
In light of our Motherhood Unplugged series and being asked how I view myself, it also made consider how we, as mothers, view beauty in this current era?
I daily scroll through the snapshots of many, many mothers and their Instagram grids. Perfectly colour-co-ordinated squares of, well frankly, beautifully turned out women.
And whilst I SO understand that we all want to show our best features and lives, what happens to the mum that doesn’t feel attractive?
Who has just had a baby and her jelly belly and stretch marks are the reason why she doesn’t want to undress in front of her husband. Or the mum who can’t remember the last time she had a haircut or her cuticles pushed back to reveal pretty nails?
Or the depressed mum, who is so sleep-deprived and struggling with the task of keeping a little human alive that she can’t bear to face the outside world. And try to look normal. What about those women?
Yet, I freely admit, I too struggle with the same sort of authenticity on social media. Whilst I can write about my flaws and downfalls, I don’t particularly want to post a picture of me looking less than my best.
Do I want to reveal a photo of me when I have first woken up, with my wild and knotty hair, bags under my eyes and those neck wrinkles that take a few hours to un-crease!! Heck no!
Why? Because I don’t want to be judged. There you have it. I don’t want someone (whoever you are) to look at me and go “Euch that’s not attractive!”
I don’t want to be criticised or put down or for somebody to think I am ugly.
So I/we, filter out the normal, the mundane, the things that we all struggle with, like bed hair, grumpy moods, messy homes, arguments with our partners, annoying children. And in doing so, we filter out our true selves.
We want to be in the shot next to our adorably behaved children, with matching outfits and not a smear of snot or dirt on their colour-co-ordinated clothes. We want our hair done, smooth and shiny or cool-dude, beach-wave messy and our lips a pretty shade of seashell-salmon.
We don’t necessarily want to put up the ones of us, bleary-eyed, fed up and grouchy, feeling bloated and teary, whilst obsessively watching the clock, willing bed-time to come swiftly.
We all talk about finding our tribe, our community of peeps who support us and enrich our lives, along with our children’s. However, if our collective tribe only sees the well-turned-out mothers, the ones who have a seemingly rose-pink coloured existence, where are the rest of us hiding?
I believe Princess Eugenie’s wedding dress has made a much bigger statement than she possibly intended. I think it shouts of “Me too!”
Me too who has scars, visible and hidden. Me too who is tired of pretending and wearing a mask. Me too who feels inferior and self-conscious when I look at other mothers on social media. And definitely, me too when I start to scratch at the wounds of comparison, envy and jealousy. These are unattractive emotions and not something I want to keep diving into. And that pesky little voice that whispers, “am I beautiful?”
Well, the answer is YES! A huge resounding, shout it from the rooftops, yes (to myself and you too). Heck yes, you are beautiful and so am I!
How can we not be? We don’t just share our bodies with our partners, we go the extra mile and grow human beings. We grow bone and lungs and kidneys. Our blood sustains life and our heart beats for more than just ourselves.
We then deliver these little miracles into the world and nourish them from our bodies and our hands. We nurture and love and protect and embrace tiny lives that become big people, who go out and smash dreams and conquer the world. All because of us, mamas.
Are we beautiful? Oh my goodness, YES, we are SO beautiful!
True beauty isn’t about having a pretty face. It’s about having a pretty mind, a pretty heart and a pretty soul. Of being the best possible version of yourself, inside and out.
Be brave, be bold but more than anything, BE YOU. Beautiful you.
If a woman says “Do what you want!” Do not do what you want. Stand still. Do not blink. Don’t even breathe. Just play dead.
Never a truer word spoken really. Especially when said woman has raging and unstable hormones, feels fat, ugly and wants to eat a truck-load of chocolate in a dark room, whilst partaking in impulse internet buying.
I really don’t quite understand how this happens but sometimes, when I am in a certain womanly phase of the month, I will wake in the night, prepare myself a plate of scrambled eggs with fresh parsley, brush my teeth and trawl Amazon for hessian pineapple bunting, soft, squishy anti-stress peaches and fluffy white pillows.
Somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks later, I receive random boxes in the mail. Of which I have zero recollection of being actively involved in purchasing.
I mean, Amazon and Ebay finds can be so damn cheap!
This stuff, that someone buys at 3.24am about 48hours prior to ahem – that time of the month.
“Women are beautifully and uniquely created, not to serve men or our children or be a slave to our jobs or homes, but to make our mark on this world and shake it gently.”
Which lends itself to the point that women are deeply awe-inspiring creatures.
We can shop in our sleep, prepare food, uphold excellent hygiene practices, and support the Chinese internet market, very finely thank you.
Not-to-mention maintain our homes with the latest of decorative trends. Purely and utterly incredible.
Which is just as well really, because on some days we are golden goddesses, oozing sexuality, poise and glamor. And others pyjama-clad, scratchy, irritable, balls of confusion, with a slight whiff of halitosis breath.
Women are beautifully and uniquely created, not to serve men or our children or be a slave to our jobs or homes, but to make our mark on this world and shake it gently, as Gandhi so eloquently quoted.
Even though our minds can be like an internet browser, with at least 19 open at one time, 10 shopping carts full of wish-lists, three frozen and a distant rendition of ‘The Sound of Music’ coming from some random corner of our minds, we can keep those balls in the air for a very very long time. All at once.
“Don’t be afraid when storms come your way.
Learn to sail your ship over the waves”.
In the spirit of celebrating the awesomeness and complexity of women, I have created a quick, go-to, glance-at, pin-on-your-wall, manifesto/self-care reminder to nurture our hearts:
“An empty lantern provides no light, self-care is the fuel that allows your light to shine brightly” -Unknown-
It’s not easy to talk about depression or mental illness. Even with all of the awareness through social media and prominent public figures, openly talking about mental health, it’s still that one subject we feel uncomfortable discussing, let alone admit we are struggling with.
It’s so very much easier to speak of our physical health than what is going on unseen within our minds. A broken bone will eventually heal, a virus may take a while to recover from,even cancer, quite possibly the most dreaded disease in the world, has brilliant survival rates, is much easier to discuss than mental illness.
The World Health Organisation estimates there are more than 300 million people in the world living with depression right now. In the UK, 1 in 5 people experience anxiety and depression – with an 18% increase between 2005 and 2015.
And sadly, we’re seeing a frightening increase in rates of mental ill health in young people.
So what is it about mental health that we find so very difficult to address?
Is it because we can’t actually see with our own eyes the cause of such distress?
Is it because we simply don’t know enough about it and it makes us fearful to talk about?
Why is it so much easier to say you have the flu and need a day off, rather than you have spent the entire night awake, highly anxious, unable to sit or stand or verbalise how deeply unwell you really are?
Whilst, I am still muddling through these answers on a personal note myself, I do draw great comfort from a new Social Enterprise, called The Blurt Foundation.
Blurt exists to make a difference to those affected by depression. Their aim is to help people understand depression and what it means for the individual. They offer support, a listening ear and advice from others who have suffered from mental illness in the past.
Their aim is to break down barriers and help people to broach this difficult subject with their close family and friends, as well as support the sufferer in the valley of depression.
Tuning into The Blurt Foundation’s website is a bit like snuggling under a warm and soft duvet on a cold and miserable winter’s day. Gentle words of encouragement, easy to read information, assurance in the form of positive and affirming words, shine through each page.
Additionally, key and relatable content is sent out once a week to Blurt’s email subscribers, which are praised by their audience for making dark days feel just that little bit brighter.
Progressing towards an even deeper understanding of depression, Blurt works closely with medical practitioners, employers, schools and companies to share the message of what depression means and how those who are affected by it can be supported.
And the best part, is that their profits are ploughed back into the community they have chosen to serve: those affected by depression.
Click on Blurt’s ‘Get Support’ page and you will find charities and services who specialise in the various types of mental illness. I am particularly impressed by these links and the level of help that is available for the individual.
In short, this small but punchy and caring community, are spear-heading a pioneering movement into the understanding of depression and mental illness, like no other team in the UK.
On a personal note, our daughter, was diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder late last year and through the Blurt Foundation, has begun to understand the importance of self-care and the need to educate herself on this often confusing and frightening illness.
Each month Blurt send out their BuddyBoxes, which are literally bundles of joy, comfort and happiness in a box. These boxes always seem to arrive at the perfect time each month, a little gift to oneself, with a different theme and accompanying complementary products.
The latest May box, entitled ‘self-care isn’t sel-fish‘ focussed on the healing and affirming practice of building into oneself. Consisting of lovingly selected and thoughtful mini treats, all in a sweet fish-themed bundle.
Gorgeously scented ‘Gone Crabbing Essence D’Estuary Soap‘; sweet and soft ‘DOIY Fish Socks‘; divinely tasting ‘Kernow Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Spoon‘ hot chocolate treat and beautiful ‘Janelle Silver A6 Temporary Tattoos‘ (that actually work on your skin and don’t fade after one wash) serve as a reminder of self-care along with encouraging postcard prints & affirming quotes.Always packaged with great care and attention to detail, these boxes are very much anticipated each month by our daughter and indeed our whole family.
BuddyBoxes can be a lovely monthly treat for oneself or a special gift for a loved one who may be having a hard time. With various buying options to select, these boxes start at an incredibly affordable £12.00.
Blurt’s online shop has lots of other lovely treats including prints, colouring books, cards and mindfulness crafts. It is a nourishing act in itself, for the heart to wander through the pages of this lovely website. One with such passion for the individual, as well as the community.
I have been a parent for nearly 21 years now and throughout the many and varied seasons of child-raising, someof those years were focussed on helping some of our children through stages of anxiety.
Not that long ago, we found ourselves in a very tricky situation with our 10 year old daughter, Milly. She became terrified of sleeping on her own at night. She found the darkness unbearable and every single night would whip herself into such a frenzy of crying and panic, it broke our hearts. As I write this I can feel tears welling up at the thought of her distress, night after night.
One particularly difficult night, Milly asked my husband and I, if it would be easier for her to leave us and join another family, as her tears and anxiety must be too much of a burden on us.
You can imagine how deeply affected we were by her words! Our sweet 10 year old expressing this so tenderly, nearly completely undid us.
Then on the other side, was our son, Harry, who began first year high school and became so deeply distressed and anxious during school time, due to group bullying. However, Harry showed his anxiety in different ways and for a long time, we were unaware of how bad things had become for him at school.
Both children experienced severe anxiety, but were poles apart in their representation of this emotion. And even though, both children are very quiet, their anxiety was uniquely displayed, often making it hard to read as a parent.
There are key signs to look for if you suspect you have an anxious child.
Our family, have actually faced all of these and whilst this list is comprehensive, it doesn’t mean anxiety or fear can be dealt with through a textbook strategy. All children are so different and we know that what works for one, may definitely not work for the other.
1. Feeling unwell to the point of wanting to vomit.
This is actually a very common complaint of children who are experiencing anxiety. The reason for the sickness, is because the body slows down so that anything that isn’t absolutely essential will be conserved for energy later. Think the flight and fight scenario (a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival). Blood flow is directed from the organs to the brain and digestion slows. This can feel like butterflies or nausea. It is a very normal part of anxiety and completely safe but also completely awful to experience.
2. Suppression of appetite.
If you notice your child is finding eating difficult, this may be an early warning sign that your little one is suffering from anxiety. While the reasons have not been proven completely, it is thought to be a combination of a variety of factors which contribute to loss of appetite. Some of these include the amount of stomach acid produced when anxious, can actually make the individual feel fuller for longer.
According to Calm Clinic, serotonin is also a key element to loss of appetite. This neurotransmitter affects how full someone feels, as well as how anxious they are. If the amount of serotonin is abnormal, anxiety levels and appetite will also be abnormal.
In my experience, it isn’t wise to force your child to eat when they are in the throes of an anxious moment. You may find it doesn’t stay where it should!
3. Worrying over seemingly minor things that shouldn’t factor at all.
Your child may begin to obsessively worrying about very small things.
For us, in Milly’s case, it was the fact that she didn’t want to be awake on her own when we all went to bed. However, considering she was put to bed a minimum of three hours earlier than my husband and I would retire, it appeared to be a small and insignificant worry. Except for her, it was a huge deal and meant she was unable to naturally fall to sleep at her usual time.
We dealt with this by assuring her we would check in on her every 30 minutes until she eventually fell asleep. These small actions were a comfort to her and she was able to relax, knowing that we would be watching over her until she dropped off to sleep.
Other parents report that their child would suddenly begin to worry about things that they usually loved to do, such as playing a certain sport or going to a friend’s house. Remember that these situations alone often aren’t the cause of the anxiety, it is the anxiety itself that manifests into the situation.
4. Not wanting to go to school.
Not wanting to go to school is a very common trait in children and anxiety isn’t always the reason behind it. Your child may generally just take a bit longer to adapt to the school environment, so I wouldn’t automatically assume it is because your little one is anxious. However, if your child has been enjoying school, socialising well and coming home happy in the past – and all of that seems to change overnight, it could be due to anxiety.
Talk to your child’s teacher and/or the mother’s of your child’s peers. They may be able to shed light on the situation. Maybe an incident occured in the playground that you were unaware of, and this has had an affect on your child.
And of course, talk to your little one. We have found it beneficial to not directly ask our children what is concerning them because often they are unable to vocalise the problem. Instead we have spent quality one-to-one time with our kids, engaging in the things that they enjoy, such as bike riding or swimming at the beach. It was during those moments that our children relaxed and conversation flowed to the point of finding out what it was that was bothering them.
Quality time is often the key to listening to your child’s heart. It gives you both space in a calm environment to connect. We have found this to be the best course of action when our children are struggling.
5. Being extra clingy to mum or dad.
If you find your child is suddenly insecure about leaving you, again it doesn’t necessarily mean anxiety is the problem.
There are so many other factors that are very normal and common in children, such as being over-tired, over-stimulated or simply genuinely missing mum and dad, which is not a negative emotion but a sign that you have a fantastic home life!!
However, if the separation time continues to be traumatic (for both parent and child), it may be a sign of anxiety.
According to Psych4Schools, “about 4 per cent of primary school age children experience excessive separation anxiety when separated from the parent or primary care giver. These children persistently worry about being forgotten, or the parent being harmed or not returning.
That being said, separation anxiety is part of normal childhood development. It begins around six months of age and typically ends by the time children begin kindergarten or preschool. A healthy level of separation anxiety indicates the development of a close bond and attachment to parents.
The warning sign is really when your child has in the past, been happy to leave you, and that suddenly changes. Then it is time to look into what has changed in your child’s life to contribute to those emotions.
6. Wetting the bed when your child has been consistently dry at night.
This is a common complaint of parents whose child has easily been dry for years sometimes, and then suddenly wets the bed every night for no apparent reason. Wetting the bed when sleeping has been linked to emotional problems and the toll they take on the body. Stress can interfere with the body’s normal sleep patterns and an increase in restlessness can cause an increase in metabolism, which in turn multiplies the production of urine while sleeping.
The good news is that bed wetting is normally a short-term problem and as soon as the cause of the anxiety is discovered and passes, so does the bed-wetting. In essence, be patient as a parent, because like all of the other symptoms above, the problem isn’t the bed-wetting in itself, rather the stress behind it.
7. Crying at the drop of a hat.
Small children will cry to express their emotions, as it is a release for stress or emotional energy. It can serve as a communicationtool to share emotions or seek comfort, as they are not able to cognitively show their parents any other way to indicate hunger, tiredness etc.
In older children, who do have the ability to convey their feelings, sudden and prolonged crying may be an indicator of stress. If your child is crying a lot, as a parent there are a few things you can do sensitively to tackle the problem.
An article in The Star, explains it this way:
Talk about emotions when things are calm, such as spending quality time with your child, as described above.
Or another option, as detailed in The Star, is instead of discussing it in the middle of a personal episode, using characters in books or movies to connect to your child’s experiences has proved successful.
“Parents can have these conversations with kids from pre-school through high school,” she said. “Remind your child too of times they have handled difficult situations well, or times when strong emotions had been overcome.”
Acknowledge that tears are part of being human. “Many children have been damaged by adults who unwittingly communicate things like ‘big boys don’t cry,’ or ‘it’s never right to shed a tear,’” Let kids know that crying is a natural outcome of pain, sadness, disappointment, fear, frustration, anger and even joy.
8. Withdrawing from friends and family.
Firstly, look at your child’s personality. Is he/she a naturally quiet person? Your little one may be growing into themselves and find that they prefer small groups of children to play with instead of large, noisy ones. This isn’t a sign of anxiety but a positive outcome that your child is finding out what works for them in social situations.
On the other hand, if you have an outgoing and bubbly little one, who is overnight very withdrawn and anxious, there is probably something going on that needs to be investigated. And remember, it doesn’t have to be a big thing. Often very small occurrences inchildren’s lives, create big ripples in their hearts. It could be that their seating arrangement at school has been altered and they are not sitting with people they know well. Or, in our case, with one of our boys, it was the arrival of a relief teacher, instead of his normal one, that caused deep distress. Once you find out what is the cause, you can make steps to deal with it.
So how do you combat these anxiety flare-ups and what’s the good news about all of this?
First of all, the good news is that it will pass.
Worrying is a normal and natural human response, so as a parent or care-giver, don’t rush in to sort out the problem straight away. Take the time to observe your child, their routine, their interactions in the play-ground, what they speak of. Oftentimes, you will see the source of the problem straight away through simply watching them.
Anxiety is simply another emotion that your child will need to learn how to process. Look at it from a positive viewpoint and not the negative way it may be affecting them. Give your child the tools to use when anxious and they will be set-up for life! If only as little ones, we were all taught how to deal with anxious thoughts! I think the world would be a much calmer place.
And lastly, be patient. This one I admit, I found difficult with Milly, as from our perspective, she took a long time to work through her night-time fears. Often it was a case of one step forward and three back. However, when she finally understood that there was nothing to be concerned about, the strength of her conviction was outstanding. And the experience she has gained from that space enables her to deal with anxiety much better in the present.
As parents, we are constantly training our kid’s hearts and anxiety is just another way of showing them how to journey through this emotion. If you look at it from that perspective, it isn’t the beast it always appears to be in the beginning!